A UKIP election hopeful has been heckled for his party’s ‘xenophobic’ policies by leading members of Newcastle’s Jewish community.
Eric Josephs, a former co-chair of the North East Jewish representative council, shouted at UKIP parliamentary candidate David Robinson Young, ‘that’s xenophobic’ as he outlined his views on immigration at a synagogue in Gosforth, Newcastle during a hustings event.
He was backed up by a man whose family escaped Nazi Germany with three days before war broke out, who said that if there had been UKIP’s favoured Australian style points system in 1939 ‘believe me, I would have died’.
Mr Robinson Young, a leading city barrister running in the Newcastle East constituency , strongly denied the accusation.
He said: “I am not xenophonic and no-one in my party is xenophobic.
“We don’t have a problem with immigration, but we have a problem with the politically motivated immigration system at the moment.”
However German born Walter Knoblauch, who lost his grandmother, aunt and great-uncle in the concentration camps, backed up Mr Josephs’ outburst.
“What you are saying is abhorrent. If there had been a points system in 1939 when I arrived here, believe me I would have died. I left Germany three days before the war broke out. We did not have time to build up points.”
Mr Knoblauch, who lives in Gosforth, arrived from Munich to Newcastle, with the assistance of Newcastle man Stanley Holmes who worked for the Tyneside Industrial Development Board. Mr Holmes was instrumental in bringing many German Jewish families to Newcastle and invited Walter’s father Herman to set up a shoe businesses, Knorbrit Products, at Orchard Street, Newcastle, and later Laco Shoes.
Walter’s brother John also ran Victory Shoe shops at the Grainger Market, Shields Road and Gateshead High Street before he died in 1982.
Mr Robinson Young said during the hustings event ahead of the General Election that cases where refugees are escaping ‘tyranny’, including current African migration across the Mediterranean sea would be considered in a different light by UKIP if they were to get into power following the May 7 General Election.
He said: “If people are genuine refugees from tyranny by all means lets look at them as this country did for you.”
Liberal Democrat Newcastle city councillor for West Gosforth, Jackie Slesenger, said from the audience that she was immensely proud of the citizenship ceremonies that take place in Newcastle every year with up to a 100 people from around the world who have chosen to make Britain their home and asked Mr Robinson Young to think again about ‘what he says about immigration’.
He said: “No-one thinks carefully about immigration can possibly say they don’t like immigration.
“People who do that are ignorant. I’m not ignorant and we have nothing against immigration, it’s the system. We do not have a race problem, we have a space problem. This country is filling up.”
He also said it was important to focus not just on the number of immigrants coming to the UK, but the quality of the people arriving, and the skills and professions they have to offer the country.
The hustings event organised by the Representative Council of North East Jewry was held at the Synagogue Hall, Graham Park Road.
Also present were Newcastle Central parliamentary candidates, Chi Onwurah for Labour, Nick Cott for the Liberal Democrats and Simon Kitchen for the Conservatives.
Daniel O’Brien Thompson, the UKIP candidate for Newcastle Central, did not take part in the hustings, but was present in the audience.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 21 Apr 2015
The ukulele player who shot to stardom this week with a swear-filled serenade for David Cameron has called for political change.
East Londoner Robin Grey, who grew up in Gosforth, spoke out a day after expressing his dissatisfaction for the Prime Minister with an adhoc song in Alnwick, Northumberland.
The 34-year-old folk singer, maths tutor and charity worker was in Alnwick as part of a cycling holiday.
“I was cycling down the hill into Alnwick, having spent a while in Northumberland National Park, and I was cut up by a big blue Conservative Party coach – I couldn’t believe it.
“Then a lot of people got off with balloons and David Cameron was among them. It was so strange because it was just them, and no ordinary people.
“I was gobsmacked and took my bike over to the other side of the road. I thought, ‘what can I do?’ I didn’t have any eggs and didn’t want to get arrested. I could have shouted but that is boring.
“So I grabbed my ukulele and played the first thing that came to me.”
He proceeded to tell the Tory leader, who was attempting to drum up support for the party’s Berwick election candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan with a 15-minute walkabout, to “fuck off back to Eton”.
“I consider myself to be an activist. The more I travel round the country the more I see what people have in common – they want to see change happen.
“I hadn’t rehearsed the song. I am used to picking up by ukulele in primary school and playing, and I have worked at the Edinburgh Festival too so it comes easily.
“I am amazed at how popular the video of my song has been. Looking back I probably could have come up with some better lyrics, like addressing him on the NHS, but at the time I knew I wouldn’t get another chance so I just kept going.”
“A security guard told me not to swear because there were children around so I did a cleaner second verse.”
“Change is needed and as more people start to get their information from less obvious routes and media sources, the ruling elites are losing control and cannot keep telling us what to do.
“After Alnwick, I headed up to Seahouses to my nanna. She was supportive of me making mischief and she knows it comes from a good place.”
With the help of his ukulele, Robin’s causes include the closure of tax breaks for corporations and the super rich, the re-nationalisation of the railways and utility companies, the provision of singing and music lessons for all schoolchildren, scrapping of bedroom tax, and a ban on fracking in the UK.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 14 Apr 2015
Ukip has declared war on cycle lanes in Newcastle – by claiming they discriminate against the elderly.
The anti-EU party has distributed leaflets claiming it’s unfair to spend money on cyclists because they tend to be young.
And while Ukip acknowledges that Newcastle has received a £10m government grant for the lanes, it complains:
“Just because they receive a government grant they don’t have to spend it.”
> Uh, I think they probably do, you know. That’s rather the point of grants.
The leaflet highlights planned cycle lanes in Gosforth High Street, John Dobson Street and other roads in the city.
But it asks: “Are cycle lanes paved with gold?”
The Ukip leaflet continues:
“Cyclists are the chosen people, motorists are just a cash cow and have very few rights.
“How many elderly ladies will get on their bikes on a dark December night in Newcastle? Not many.
“Surely giving all the rights to cyclists, who are usually young people, is discrimination against the elderly and infirm?”
The leaflet goes on to complain that cyclists “carry no number plates or insurance” and suggests the council could improve road safety by ordering cyclists to put bells on their bikes.
But the claims were rejected by Newcastle Central Labour candidate Chi Onwurah.
“Cycling is a low impact way of keeping fit for people of all ages as well as a green and sustainable means of transport.
“The idea that this discriminates against older people is absurd and implies some kind of battle between cyclists and the elderly when in reality we all benefit from quieter, safer roads.
“Ukip have gone from picking on immigrants to picking on cyclists. Who is next I wonder?”
Earlier this week, Ukip launched its North East campaign and claimed it would be a “two horse race” between Ukip and Labour in the region.
Ukip and the Green Party are fielding a record number of General Election candidates as they seek to prove their credentials as emerging national political forces.
Provisional Press Association figures suggest Nigel Farage’s party is contesting 624 of the UK’s 650 Westminster seats – 66 more than it did in 2010.
Meanwhile the Greens, who have enjoyed a number of strong by-election performances, are putting up hopefuls in 571 seats – more than 70% higher than the 335 it fielded last time.
But in a signal of the dramatic decline of the far-right British National Party as an electoral force, it will be on the ballot paper in only eight constituencies, down from 338 last time.
The total number of candidates appears to have dipped slightly from 4,150 to 3,963 candidates.
A growing number are women – up almost a fifth from 854 to 1,020.
Ukip’s slate however is the only one of the major parties to be more male than in 2010, with only 77 women standing compared with 83.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 11 Apr 2015
Three fire stations threatened with closure due to multimillion pound cuts have today been saved.
Wallsend, Gosforth and Sunderland Central fire stations had all been earmarked for closure as Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service faced saving almost £9m form its budget.
But in a surprise move at a meeting of the Tyne and Wear Fire Authority today it was decided all the stations will remain open.
Prior to the meeting Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, handed in a 34,000 signature petition against the closures.
In March last year, the Authority announced Sunderland Central station, alongside those in Wallsend and Gosforth, had been handed a stay of execution and would not close until June 2017, with efforts being made to try to find the funds to keep them open.
At today’s meeting it was agreed the stations would be able to remain open due to a council tax precept rise.
The move was greeted with widespread elation from those who have spent more than a year fighting to keep the stations open.
Russ King, secretary of Tyne and Wear Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) said: “We’re absolutely delighted this decision has been made.”
While firefighter of 15 years Gary Richardson added: “This is the first bit of good news in a long time.”
Campaigners had argued that lives would be put at risk should the closures go ahead and that response times to some of the most serious incidents would suffer.
Following today’s announcement Ms Elliott tweeted: “We did it. After the submission of our petition, the Fire Authority say that no Tyne and Wear stations will close.”
Tom Capeling, chief fire officer for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, added: “Members have just agreed NOT to close the fire stations in Gosforth, Sunderland and Wallsend.”
However, the 130 posts earmarked to be lost with the closure of the fire stations will still go ahead.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 16 Feb 2015
A parish council with thousands of pounds in cash reserves is set to hit residents with another large tax demand.
Blakelaw and North Fenham Community Council issued a staggering 242% increase in its precept for 2014-15.
This saw the contribution of residents rise to £46.09 compared to the £13.47 for the previous year which resulted in its funds shooting up to £85,000.
Its parish councillors meet on Thursday to vote on a draft budget precept for 2015-16 that some predict could bring in a further £50,000.
While no figure has been confirmed, the contribution of residents is expected to be around the £25 mark. Although less than for 2014/15, it will still be way above that demanded of residents of neighbouring parish councils.
Fed up resident Andrew Smith, who lives at Druridge in North Fenham, said:
“We’ve had an increase of 242% and that increase brought in £85,000. If you add up the precepts for all the other five parish councils in Newcastle it only comes to £51,000.
“Where’s the realisation that things are still hard for people, and where’s the mandate to put that precept in when they’ve not consulted with residents?”
The parish council is one of six which operate in Newcastle, and while Blakelaw and North Fenham residents have seen significant increases, neighbouring Gosforth only charged its householders £3.96 a year – a 45p increase on the year before.
In Woolsington residents were charged £5.15, in Brunswick it was £12.11 and in Hazlerigg – the second most expensive parish council – the charge was £15.72 for the year 2014-2015 for a Band A property.
Mr Smith, who stood down from the parish council in 2011, believes the precept rise was linked to the Blakelaw Community Partnership, based off Binswood Avenue, which has been running since March 2013.
On Thursday this organisation finds out whether a £25,187 grant request has been approved – on top of £20,000 it received in the last financial year.
Mr Smith said: “The organisation must stand on its own two feet as the council can’t keep taking money from residents like it is at the moment.
“I’m certain that their grant will be bigger than many other parish precepts, which I find disgraceful.”
Chair of Blakelaw and North Fenham Community Council, Ann Keenan, said the £85,000 precept for 2014-15 had been a shock and what is proposed for this year will be much lower than the predicted £50,000.
Ann, who was not chair when the £85,000 precept was passed, said: “I can understand how people have felt. It was a large precept. I was shocked. There are reserves of £53,000 and that’s why we are going for a smaller precept this year.
“The money that the partnership got off the council this year was all for the children and young people of Blakelaw and North Fenham and on the community centre which is packed every night. Crime figures have reduced because of it.”
Glenn Pendleton, manager of the Blakelaw Ward Community Partnership said: “We brought in £37,000 in additional funding last year and we do not rely on the money from the precept to actually underpin our work.
“The money we get from the parish council was for children and young people’s work and we worked with 7000 children last year. We have been successful from a police point of view and have reduced crime and anti-social behaviour.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 06 Jan 2015
A Government minister has blamed the Tyne and Wear fire service for making front-line cuts.
Service chiefs want to close the Sunderland Central station and merge crews at Gosforth and Wallsend to cover an £8.8m drop in government funding.
But fire minister Brandon Lewis implied the fire service should save money by using a government training college almost 240 miles away.
He said: “This body has had a cut of a couple of per cent in spending power for each of the past couple of years and has built up its reserves. It has been able to spend that on extra training facilities when the Government already have a training facility.”
He said it was up to Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority to manage its own funds based on “local risk” and suggested digging into its £30m reserve to cover the cost. But the service hit back, saying his comments “do not fully reflect the picture” and that spending its reserves would create a financial “cliff edge” as faced by the US government last year.
Chief fire officer Tom Capeling said: “The authority is not spending reserves on extra training facilities. Our training centre was opened 18 years ago and we continue to send some officers to the south for specialist training.
“If reserves were used to meet the projected gap then over £16.8m would be required over the next three years. This would create a cliff edge that would need to be addressed in the year after.
“We would either be living in hope that ‘something would turn up’ in the meantime – imprudent and unlikely given the comments made about further cuts in future – or we would need to lose a lot of staff very quickly, as opposed to the measured and managed approach we are proposing to take.”
He said it would cost too much money to send all 866 of its firefighters for regular training in Gloucestershire and would keep them away from duty for too long.
The service expects to lose £12.9m by April 2017 and claims it is “disproportionately” hurt by the cuts because its council tax takings are lower.
Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah, who had asked Mr Lewis about the closure of Gosfirth Fire Station, said: “I don’t see how a fire service can lose almost a quarter of its funding without impacting front line services.
“Mr Lewis’s response was wholly inadequate and took no responsibility for the risks his policies pose, whilst trying to distract us with comments on training.”
But Dave Turner, of the Fire Brigades Union, said fire chiefs’ chosen plan was “nonsensical” and that their £30m reserve “could and should be used.”
He said: “Any comment from the government that put all the onus on local authorities is disingenuous at best, but the fire authority shouldn’t be making these cuts.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 07 March 2014
One in every five firefighters in Tyne and Wear could be made redundant after the region’s fire service announced proposals to cut over £5 million from its budget.
The authority is consult on three options, including using smaller response vehicles or axing up to six engines.
Option one includes “standing down” engines on quieter nights and reducing fire fighter cover at some stations.
Option 2 would see the same cuts plus the closure of community fire stations in Wallsend and Gosforth with services moving to a new facility at Benton.
A third option sees closures in Sunderland.
If all options are backed then 131 firefighting jobs – 20% of the workforce – would go. An aerial ladder platform would also be lost.
Brigade Secretary Dave Turner said “We have made it clear in all recent discussions with senior managers that we will oppose any further cuts to frontline services.
“These are the most devastating cuts in the service’s history and will mean firefighters and the public will be at far greater risk if these cuts go ahead.
“It also means that areas of Tyne and Wear will be left without cover for extended periods – again increasing the risk to both the public and firefighters alike.”
Fire service bosses will decide on the cuts in January.
Source – Newcastle Journal 23 Oct 2013